News anchor Shepard ′Shep′ Smith showed himself to be a real idiot this week, even by Fox News standards. In his running feud with the Trump administration over the surveillance allegations of the Obama administration against Trump, Shep Smith attacked Kellyanne Conway over her statement about how microwaves can be used for spying. Smith retorted that ″microwaves are for cooking″. I suppose that is the extent of Smith′s knowledge on the electro-magentic spectrum. Oddly enough, microwaves are used also for radar, communications, spying and even astronomy! But let us focus on spying first, shall we?
We shall begin by examining a rather interesting book published way back in 1987. ″Spycatcher″ by Peter Wright with Paul Greengrass is the non-fiction, semi-autobiography of Peter Wright. One can say that he was the role model for the James Bond character, Q. Wright was a scientist hired by MI5 back in the early 1950s. He was an expert on microwaves, developing a technology allowing sounds to be captured and transmitted. In 1955, MI5 used this technology to ′wiretap′ suspected Russian moles within the British intelligence services and government.
Wright built a system which was installed in a van, modified to have a generator and a fiberglass body. An actual wiretap on the suspect’s telephone line was made some distance away. The van would park outside the suspect′s home or office. The microwave device would then irradiate the suspect′s telephone, energizing it to become a ‘hot’ microphone. Any conversations or other sounds made inside the home or office could then be heard and recorded.
But then Wright discovered another benefit. It turned out that certain objects, like ashtrays and lamps, could also be used to pick up sounds with microwaves without the need to physically ′wiretap′ the phone. Wright found out that if an object had the right shape or made of the right materials, they could be turned into microphones, and, by using his microwave system, remotely listen in and record conversations and sounds. Keep in mind that this was going on in the mid-to-late 1950s! By the late 1960s, a newer method involving lasers could turn ordinary glass windows into microphones. Devices like ′bugs′ and methods like physical wiretaps had become obsolete!
Peter Wright was quite the character! He was also involved in developing a very portable X-ray camera so agents could peek inside safes before determining whether they needed to crack them. In the early 1960s, our own CIA contracted Wright to develop some new methods for performing assassinations. After he retired, his book caused quite a stir as the British government attempted to stop it from being published. The courts ruled in Wright′s favor, seeing as how the book covered technologies and methods from the 1950s and early ′60s. So one could only imagine what is possible today by our spy agencies.
So, no Shepard Smith, microwaves are not only good for cooking! These high-frequency radio waves have many uses, including conducting surveillance. Kellyanne Conway may not have been literally correct in her statement, but she was certainly in the ballpark. Given what we are learning from the latest releases by WikiLeaks on how the CIA can hack into ′smart′ devices and such, it would not surprise me if the technology exists to not only record sounds remotely, but images as well. A lot can happen in 50-60 years as scientists and engineers keep pushing back the limitations of our capabilities. If Peter Wright could eavesdrop on somebody by bouncing microwaves off of an ashtray or a lamp in 1955, who can say what our spies can do today?
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